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Dev Biol. 1992 Oct;153(2):185-93.

Phenotypic changes of human smooth muscle cells during development: late expression of heavy caldesmon and calponin.

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Institute of Experimental Cardiology, Cardiology Research Center, Moscow, Russia.


Expression of the regulatory contractile proteins, heavy caldesmon (h-caldesmon) and calponin was studied in human aortic smooth muscle cells (SMCs) during development and compared with the expression of alpha-SM-actin and smooth muscle-myosin heavy chain (SM-MHCs). For this study, novel monoclonal antibodies specific to SM-MHCs, h-caldesmon, and calponin were developed and characterized. Aortic SMCs from fetuses of 8-10 and 20-22 weeks of gestation express alpha-SM-actin and SM-MHCs, but neither h-caldesmon nor calponin were expressed as demonstrated by immunoblotting and immunofluorescence techniques. In the adult aortic tunica media, SMCs contain all four markers. Thus, the expression of calponin, similar to the expression of alpha-SM-actin, SM-MHCs, and h-caldesmon, is developmentally regulated in aortic SMCs. In the adult aortic subendothelial (preluminal) part of tunica intima, numerous cells containing SM-MHCs, but lacking h-caldesmon and calponin, were found. These results illustrate the similarity of SMCs from intimal thickenings and immature (fetal) SMCs. Expression of contractile proteins in the developing SMCs is coordinately regulated; however, distinct groups of proteins appear to exist whose expression is regulated differently. Actin and myosin, being major contractile proteins, also play a structural role and appear rather early in development, whereas caldesmon and calponin, being involved in regulation of contraction, can serve as markers of higher SMC differentiation steps. In contrast, h-caldesmon and calponin were already present in visceral SMCs (trachea, esophagus) of the 10-week-old fetus. These results demonstrate that the time course of maturation of visceral SMCs is different from that of vascular SMCs.

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